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Mike Tindall: Last chance to appreciate grit and guile of Southern Hemisphere old-timers

27 Oct | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Mike Tindall: Last chance to appreciate grit and guile of Southern Hemisphere old-timers

The World Cup winner and Betway ambassador pays tribute to wise heads who have seen Australia and New Zealand through to the final

New Zealand and Australia have received plenty of plaudits for their exciting rugby throughout this World Cup, but ultimately it was their ability to dig in and scrap that has seen them both through to the final.

The All Blacks could and should have been way ahead of South Africa in their semi going into half-time, but did not take their opportunities despite having the majority of both territory and possession.

Before the match they knew that South Africa were going to come at them physically, but the torrential weather meant that it became even more of a war of attrition.

With so much importance attached to the set-piece and breaking the gain line, it became like the sort of traditional Northern Hemisphere game of rugby that we see week in, week out.

But it is a sign of a great team to be able to adapt to changing conditions when required.

I remember when we beat New Zealand in Wellington in the summer of 2003, we had to contend with being both down to 13 men and wind so horrendous I had to lie face down and hold the ball for Jonny Wilkinson to kick.

In those sort of wet and windy conditions you have to trust in your handling abilities and the fact that every single one of the current crop of All Blacks are all so comfortable on the ball is one of their major strengths.nz-windWhen you have been on the sort of run that New Zealand have enjoyed over the past few years you know how to get the job done, and when it came down to the crunch it was they who looked the more calm and cool as the pressure grew.

You can say the same for the composure in defence of Australia, who, despite winning the game, were probably breached more often by Argentina in terms of clean line breaks. 

The Pumas had them in some tough spots on numerous occasions, but they were unable to take their opportunities as every time the Wallabies managed to get back in control of their defensive line to diffuse the situation.

Their scramble really was superb and their willingness to get back and fight was evident for all to see.

Every time that Australia have been asked to defend during this tournament they have done it incredibly well – and that gives a team such confidence knowing that you can trust the guy next to you to put his head where it hurts.

Nobody epitomises that fearlessness as much as David Pocock – who claimed another four turnovers on Sunday – and his partner in crime in the back row, Michael Hooper.

There are not many guys in world rugby who are as accomplished as they are at snaffling possession from the opposition.

The actual skill of stealing the ball is not hard to coach, but they have both got flawless timing in terms of getting their heads over the ball and finding those gaps.

The difference with them is that whereas in the Northern Hemisphere people try to lock onto the ball and hope that the referee will give them a penalty, instead they play for the turnover by looking to rip the ball back onto their side.pocockPocock in particular has got arms like Mr Tickle that can just drop over the ball from behind the ruck, making him very difficult to clear out – and even if you do manage it then he is so strong that the ball is probably going with him. 

Australia got massive rewards by putting pressure on the breakdown in their recent game against New Zealand to decide the Rugby Championship, and that is where they will be trying to exploit them again in the final given the number of penalties that the All Blacks conceded in the same area on Saturday.

New Zealand now have the opportunity to become the first team ever to retain the World Cup, which speaks volumes for their system of giving youngers guys an opportunity within an experienced squad.

England struggled after 2003 because we had stuck with the same team for three years beforehand, and then lost seven or eight players who had become legends of the game in one fell swoop.

The All Blacks have already begun to blood the next generation for when the current generation of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith and all the rest retire – although it will still be interesting to see how they cope without the spine of their team after this tournament.

It is incredibly difficult to replace guys of that calibre – just look at the way that Michael Cheika has adjusted the rules to include Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell in his squad and the impact that they have had along with the likes of Adam Ashley-Cooper.

With both teams having to use all of their guile and experience simply to get this far, it is how their respective old guards perform that is likely to decide who bows out of international rugby with another medal around their neck. 

New Zealand v Australia match betting

READ: Relive the 4 greatest moments in the history of the Rugby World Cup

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